All of these movies are expiring at 11:59 PM on July 31st.
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen
Everyone on an airplane gets sick from food poisoning, including the pilot. Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is the only one who can fly the plane, but suffers from a fear of flying after his experience as a fighter pilot during a war. With the often humorous support from his ex-lover/stewardess (Julie Haggerty) and a doctor aboard the plane (Leslie Nielsen), Ted does his best to safely land it. Airplane! is a classic comedy, acting as a parody of disaster movies. With all the of the really terrible parody movies that have come out in recent years (Disaster Movie, A Haunted House), Airplane! is an example of that very specific genre done extremely well.
Director: Mel Gibson
Cast: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan
William Wallace (Mel Gibson) leads his fellow Scots in a revolt against the English after his wife is assaulted and killed by an English soldier. I think that this is Mel Gibson’s most memorable role. It’s easy to hate him for being such a jerk in real life, but it’s hard to deny that he plays an angry Scotsman pretty damn well. The movie is often times crude and violent, but the message is a powerful one–freedom is worth fighting for, even if it means sacrificing your own life so that others can live free. This is a beautifully crafted movie with a lot of very memorable characters and speeches that are inspiring enough to pump anyone up. This was nominated for 10 Oscars and won 5, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Harvey Keitel, John Turturro, Delroy Lindo, Mekhi Phifer, Isaiah Washington
Genre: Crime Drama
Based on the novel by Richard Price, Clockers tells the story of Strike (Mekhi Phifer), a street-level drug dealer who works for a drug lord named Rodney Little (Delroy Lindo). He gets mixed up in a murder that his brother, Victor (Isaiah Washington), has confessed to committing. In the meantime, two detectives, Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel) and Larry Mazilli (John Turturro) are convinced that because of Victor having no past criminal record, Strike must be responsible for the murder and his brother is taking the fall for him. I’m not a really big fan of Spike Lee and I wasn’t impressed with his more popular film, Do the Right Thing. I enjoyed this movie, however, and I think it is underrated. It raises questions of morality and not in a condescending way. It also has some great performances by the cast with characters who aren’t just black and white (metaphorically speaking).
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen
Genre: Biography Drama
Based on a true story about the life of Joseph D. Pistone who is working as an undercover FBI agent, taking on the alias Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp), in order to infiltrate the mob. He earns the trust of a low-level mobster named Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino), who takes him under his wing. The more time he spends around members of the Mafia, the more he begins to change, becoming more distant from his family, while becoming closer friends with Lefty. He dreads the day that the FBI will eventually have to come and make arrests, putting Lefty’s life in jeopardy in the process. Pacino’s character in this movie is a lot different than the one he plays in The Godfather. He is a low ranking member who doesn’t get the respect he thinks he deserves and it’s hard not to take pity on him even though you know he’s a murderer. This is a great undercover cop movie and Johnny Depp and Pacino are amazing in it.
Easy Rider (1969)
Director: Dennis Hopper
Cast: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson
Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are two motorcycle-riding hippies who smuggle some cocaine out of Mexico to sell in Los Angeles. They then use the money to take a road trip from LA to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras. Along their journey, they meet a rancher, pick up a hitchhiker and drive him to his commune where a bunch of young hippies live together and try to grow crops in dry land, and they meet a lawyer named George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), who travels with them for a time. This is considered a counterculture film, where it explores a lot of characteristics from the 1960s, including hippies, drug use, and communal establishments. Fonda and Hopper are great in this movie. Nicholson, as usual, is an oddly entertaining character who makes the film more fun just by being there. Oh, and the soundtrack is awesome with all of that era-defining rock music.
Paper Moon (1973)
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn
Moses “Moze” Pray (Ryan O’Neal) meets Addie (Tatum O’Neal) at her mother’s funeral, where he agrees to take her to her aunt’s house in Missouri. It is hinted that Moze may be Addie’s father, but it is never known for sure. Moze is a con man who knocks on doors of recently widowed women and tells them that their dead husbands ordered an expensive Bible for them before they died, persuading these women to pay for something they don’t even really want. On their journey to Missouri, Addie aids Moze in his conning affairs, and they eventually realize that they make a good team. This is a comical, but heartfelt story of a friendship between two characters who may or may not be related. Addie looks to Moze as a father figure whether he is really her father or not. She is a sassy young girl whose wit is often surprising. Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar for this role at only 10-years-old.
The Pianist (2002)
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox
Genre: Biography Drama
Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody) is a Polish-Jewish pianist who is forced to experience cruelties of life in Nazi-occupied Poland. He and his family struggle to survive as the Nazis force them into small ghettos. When he is separated from his family, he relies on the help of good friends in order to stay alive. This is based on a true story of Szpilman’s life during World War II. It is a haunting film, and often times difficult to watch. However, it is a wonderfully written story that deserves to be told and seen. Polanski, being a Holocaust survivor himself, handled this with the kind of care a film of this serious subject matter needs. The perspective stays with Brody’s character, so the audience only ever sees what he sees. It doesn’t veer off into the outside world to show all of the atrocities that were probably being committed at the time just for the sake of showing how bad it was. It’s a very personal film and you feel very close to the main character by the end of it. Adrien Brody won an Oscar for this role and he deserved it. Say what you will about Polanski and his personal life, but I can’t deny that he makes some really good movies, and was deserving of his Oscar as well.
The Rainmaker (1997)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Claire Danes, Jon Voight
Based on John Grisham’s novel, Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) is an ambitious young lawyer who teams up with Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito), a paralegal who has failed the bar exam six times. Together, they take on a case of a 22-year-old with leukemia, whose life could potentially be saved if his insurance didn’t deny him a bone marrow transplant. I haven’t read the Grisham novel, but I do enjoy this movie a lot. Whether or not this is meant to be a courtroom drama in the story, it definitely succeeds as one. It has the tension and the kind of stuff that makes you angry just watching it. You begin to hate the people working for the insurance company, Great Benefit, as well as Jon Voight’s character, the lead lawyer for the insurance company and a man who only cares about winning the case. It could’ve done without the side story of Rudy falling in love with Claire Danes’ character, the battered woman, but it’s still a good film overall.